Revisiting Pelenna

The clever people at Sugar Creatives are doing clever creative stuff with the web site – but that means I have to crack on with uploading grid points so they have something to work on. Usually I do them as I go along, but there are bits of alternative route that I haven’t looked at for years, and the aerial photos on the Ordnance Survey site look nothing like what I remembered. An excuse to get the boots out …

I meant to do this just with Nell, but Cara refused to stay in the house so we all set off together. The alternative higher-level route from Margam to Neath seems OK as far as Afan Argoed and over the ridge to Cwm Pelenna but I can’t make sense of some of my notes after that. We drove to Ton-mawr to walk up the valley of the Gwenffrwd. Strike one: the Ton-mawr Sport and Fitness Centre is no more. On the positive side, mountain biking in the Afan and Pelenna valleys has really taken off: the Gyfylchi Mountain Centre is refurbished, there’s the Afan Bike Park at Gyfylchi and new trails at Penhydd, and more places to stay (eg Bryn Bettws with a range of bunkhouses and cabins,

So the track over Gyfylchi and down to Cwm Pelenna is clear and walkable. At SS 80968 96002 the line of the South Wales Mineral Railway emerges from the Gyfylchi Tunnel to your right.


dsc_1787At SS 80876 96091, cross the river by a railway bridge. Bear left with the line of the railway track (now a bridle path). At SS 80185 96261, cross the road, walk up the steps ahead of you and continue up through the houses to the main road through Ton-mawr.

At SS 80193 96372, cross the road, turn left and go up the steps to your right, just before the children’s playground.


At SS 80169 96418, turn left on a very minor road. After Blaenafon Farm (SS 80151 96757)


the road becomes a surfaced track. Across the valley to your left, the rush-filled ponds are part of the world-famous River Pelenna minewater treatment system.


At SS 79908 97905 the track passes above the ruins of a substantial farm.


From this point the track is not marked on the OS map as a right of way but it is waymarked as a byway.


At SS 80140 97561 you have to ford the Gwenffrwd, quite tricky even after a very dry October and potentially impassable in wet weather.


I remember struggling with this back in 2005. Nell liked it, though – you can just see her head peeping out of the water.

At SS 79656 98552 the main track bears to the left.After several gates, at SS 79428 98582 you pass through the earthworks of a massive Roman camp.


There are lovely views from here.


We turned back at the top of the ridge,


but you can walk on down the hill and through the grounds of the Gnoll, or turn right and follow the Cefn Ffordd, the great Glamorgan Ridgeway, along the watershed and down to the Rhondda. I remember walking that with a group of extra-mural students on a rather wet day back in the 1990s.


2 thoughts on “Revisiting Pelenna

  1. Forgive me if I am being a bit slow here but it has taken me ages to work out what I think you are trying to achieve. The absence of any obvious route to me between say Ton Mawr and the Roman Camp suggests that this is your objective? Do you actually have documentary evidence to suggest that there was a connecting route, that may be supported by the existence of the cul-de-sac byway, or is it a matter of trying to find something suitable on the ground? As I struggled so much to trace your steps, having taken the bait of the bridleway and byway signposts in your photographs, I thought I may as well go the extra mile and ask the question! Thank you.

  2. Probably best to go back to the main web site at for a bit of background. When we last walked the whole route in 2005 we took this high-level route from Margam to Neath. It’s a lovely route but since then the coast path has been put in and that’s a shorter and easier route for walkers. But people who walked the high-level route wanted it kept in as an alternative – and it makes a nice 3 or 4 day circuit, out one way and back the other. From your point of view it should mostly be passable for horses, which of course the coast path isn’t. It was such a long time since I’d walked it and things have changed – notably the loss of the sport centre – so if we are going to map the route I thought I’d better recheck it.

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